The History of Our Historic Building in Downtown Knoxville

The Medical Arts Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is an ornate Gothic Revival style building that was designed and built in 1932 by a Lexington, Kentucky based architecture firm, Manley and Young. The building was built for a group of prominent physicians in Knoxville led by Dr. Herbert Acuff and Dr. M. M. Copenhaver. The original General Contractor responsible for overseeing the construction was Worsham Brothers Builders, led by Earl S. Worsham, all of whom occupied space in the building in the 1930s.

The Depression took its toll on the plans; originally planned as a 13-story building, the plans were scaled back to be a 10-story building like so many projects during this period. The building, which includes an attached 4-story parking garage, was once home to a pharmacy, a bank, a beauty shop, a florist, and several restaurants. A bowling alley and a putt-putt golf course also entertained tenants and visitors!

The decorative terra cotta and dark green spandrel panels on the exterior of the East and South facing facades clearly shows the attention to detail, which was rarely seen anywhere else in southeast at that time. The plan was to build the best equipped medical building in the South. Unfortunately, Acuff & Copenhaver fell victim to the Great Depression in the early 1930s and filed for bankruptcy. The building was then sold to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The insurance company owned the building for 8 years until it was sold to a Birmingham, Alabama businessman, Arthur Pelzer, for $385,000.00. Pelzer owned the building while H. M. Ogle Managed the property for almost 40 years when it was sold on June 1, 1977, to a group of investors led by Daniel G. Brown of Brown, Brown & West, a local real estate firm.

Kristopher Kendrick and a group of investors purchased the building on April 3, 1981, with plans to convert the building into 40 luxury residential condominiums. He planned to rename the Medical Arts building to The Stuart named after the group of investors. However, later that year, on October 1, 1981, the property was sold to businessman B. Ray Thompson and attorney Lindsay Young.

Several years later, after the 1982 World’s Fair festivities ended, major plans for renovating the Medical Art Building began. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 24, 1984. The complete renovation of the buildings systems were finished in 1985 with some financing assistance provided by CBID. The office building was once again a favorite location for many well-known doctors, dentist, attorneys, accountants and other professionals.

The Building was purchased by Michael Conley in 1996. Thomas B. Grace, a Real Estate Investor from Chicago, purchased the building from Michael Conley in March of 2006. Grace planned to leave the building as a multi-tenant office building for many years but the recession of 2008 changed everything. Thomas’ brother, Michael B. Grace, joined as an investor and partner in the Building. The brothers agreed that the best use for the building was for residential use. The 15 remaining commercial tenants in the building moved out of the Medical Arts Building at the end of 2012.

Traditional bank financing, Historical Tax Credits, a CBID Façade grant and a PILOT program all participated in the financing the redevelopment of the property. The building permit was secured in May 2013 and the conversion from Office to Residential was underway. The first occupant moved into the Medical Arts Building 12 months later. Now today, a new generation of people will call the Medical Arts building home!